The Survey

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The purpose of the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations in America survey is to collect information about where immigrant Germans from Russia lived in the United States, where they came from in Russia, and where their descendants lived. The goal is to record as many generations as possible forward from the German-Russian immigrant.

Germans from Russia have been in the United States for nearly 150 years. Five generations seemed like a good target, estimating 25-30 years per generation. Of course, many did not immigrate until later into the 1900s, and some as late as the 1950s and 1960s, so the survey may capture some of those later immigrants.

The survey came about when I realized I was spending a lot of time tracking down German-Russian origins for places, particularly those that came from newspaper indexes. I realized there was a community who could answer with authority on the subject for many of the places found in the indexes: the people who were actively doing their own families’ Germans from Russia genealogy.

The decision to “crowdsource” information was made. Crowdsourcing is enlisting information from a large number of people interested in a particular topic with an expectation that a percentage of people will act on the request and contribute. There is nothing scientific or guaranteed about this method of gathering information. You get what you get, and I report it as I get it.

An online survey was constructed and distributed by email to those who subscribe to the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations blog and more largely through its associated Facebook page. The estimated reach within the first two days was just over 8,000 people.

The survey is currently accepting responses and will remain open through December 31, 2019. If you wish to contribute information to the survey and this project, please see the Privacy section at the bottom of this page to make sure you have no concerns about what may be submitted and how the information will be used.

The Questions

The questions on the survey are mostly free-form and multiple choice from a dropdown menu. There are no mandatory questions that have to be answered in order to submit the survey. Contact information was voluntary. The survey was designed to give respondents the freedom to answer the questions in the language they are used to using when describing where their family originated in Russia and where they lived in the United States.

The survey questions fall into two categories: 1) About Your German-Russian Immigrant Ancestor and 2) About the Descendants of Your Immigrant Ancestor. Below are the questions on the survey and the reasoning behind asking them:

Part 1. About Your German-Russian Immigrant Ancestor

  1. What was your German-Russian ancestor’s surname (or maiden name)? Surnames are not included in the map. However, this piece of information was collected for future projects/researchers.
  2. In what state or territory did this ancestor first settle in the United States? A dropdown menu of choices was provided, including territories that were available for settlement from the 1870s forward. This information was collected to reveal what states and territories were settled.
  3. In what town (or closest town) did this ancestor first live? For those who lived on farms or in rural areas, where was this ancestor’s post office? This information was collected to gather names of places where immigrant Germans from Russia first settled upon arrival in the United States.
  4. What year did this ancestor arrive in the United States? This information was collected to find the earliest year of German-Russian habitation for a location.
  5. What was this ancestor’s occupation? Occupations are not included in the map. However, this was collected for future projects/researchers.
  6. From what area did this ancestor emigrate to the United States? This information was collected to record the immigrant German-Russian origins and, together with answers from earlier questions, to be able to apply it to a location in the United States.
  7. What was the name of the village where this ancestor lived? This information was collected to record the immigrant German-Russian origins and, together with answers from earlier questions, to be able to apply it to a location in the United States.
  8. Was this ancestor born there? If not, where was this ancestor born? This information was collected to record the immigrant German-Russian origins and, together with answers from earlier questions, to be able to apply it to a location in the United States.
  9. What was this ancestor’s religion? This was collected to determine if the immigrant ancestor’s religion was different from the known religion of their German colony in Russia. Specific types of Protestantism were included among the choices, although they are all lumped together as Protestant on the map. There was also a write-in option for this question. Some respondents indicated one religion in Russia and conversion to another after immigration. This may be of useful to future projects/researchers.
  10. Did this ancestor move elsewhere in the United States? This information was collected to be able to record if the immigrant German from Russia stayed in one place upon arrival in the United States.
  11. Where else did this ancestor live in the United States and when? List all towns, states and years. This information was collected to be able to record additional locations immigrant Germans from Russia lived other than the where they first settled.
  12. Did this ancestor ever move outside the United States? This was collected to determine if the United States was in the path to ultimately settling elsewhere. This was collected for future projects/researchers.
  13. If so, what country did this ancestor move to and when? This was collected to determine what country Germans from Russia went to after living in the United States. This was collected for future projects/researchers.


Part 2. About the Descendants of Your German-Russian Immigrant Ancestor

  1. 1st Generation: What towns and states did the children of this ancestor live and in what year? List all towns, states, years. This information was collected to record where the 1st generation descendants of Germans from Russia lived and when. Some of these were born in the United States while others were born in Russia. No absolute distinction of this was recorded in the survey for this generation, just that they were the children of immigrant Germans from Russia.
  2. 2nd Generation: What towns and states did the grandchildren of this ancestor live and in what year? List all towns, states, years. This information was collected to record where the 2nd generation descendants of Germans from Russia lived and when.
  3. 3rd Generation: What towns and states did the great-grandchildren of this ancestor live and in what year? List all towns, states, years. This information was collected to record where the 3rd generation descendants of Germans from Russia lived and when.
  4. 4th Generation: What towns and states did the great-great-grandchildren of this ancestor live and in what year? List all towns, states, years. This information was collected to record where the 4th generation descendants of Germans from Russia lived and when.
  5. 5th Generation: What towns and states did the great-great-great-grandchildren of this ancestor live and in what year? List all towns, states, years. This information was collected to record where the 5th generation descendants of Germans from Russia lived and when.
  6. As a Germans from Russia descendant, in what town/state/country do you live now? This was collected to record where respondents lived in in 2019. The location was almost always included in one of the five generations.
  7. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your German-Russian ancestors in the United States? This allows a space for storytelling, memories, pride in heritage, stories of unknown heritage, etc.
  8. OPTIONAL – Your contact information for possible follow up questions or surveys (name, email, phone, etc. ). This information was collected to provide a means of contacting the respondent if there were any questions about the response.

Some concerns were expressed about the survey being was too long, too hard to complete without opening up family tree software, and others said there were too many locations to mention. These comments were taken to heart, but no changes were made to the survey once it was released. To date, the hundreds of responses to the survey contributed an enormous amount of data to this project. Some survey responses were remarkably detailed. Others were sparse either because they didn’t know much (and said so), did they best they could from memory (and said so), or didn’t have time or desire to go into detail but nonetheless wanted where their family lived recorded in the survey. A crowdsource is as good as what the respondents want to give, and those who did respond seemed to genuinely want to contribute good information.

Every little bit truly helps.


The Summaries

The survey responses are grouped into batches to make them more manageable with which to work. The information from each response is first normalized based on the location and generation information reported by the respondent. Not all data from the survey is included in this step. Only the information needed for the map is used. Each response can generate multiple lines of data depending on how detailed the response is. For privacy purposes, the only identifier linking the normalized data back to the original response data is the automated timestamp given to the response when it was submitted.

Below is an example of normalized data from a response:

Once a batch of responses is normalized, it is then summarized into descriptive language that can be added to the map. If the location is not on the master list of places, then it is added along with the German-Russian origins from the survey data. If the location already on the list of places, the German-Russian origins field is updated with the information from the survey data.

If the location in a response is too general, such as a county, a state or another country, the information is not included in the normalized or summarized data because there isn’t anything specific enough to map by coordinates. In the case of places in other countries, although it doesn’t fit within the scope of this map, the data is saved for future projects.

The summaries will be available for download on the data page when the data is officially released early next year. Below is an example of the summary based on the normalized data above.

Privacy

If you have any of the following concerns, you may choose not to fill out the survey:

    • concerns about sharing where your family came from in Russia
    • concerns about sharing where they and their descendants (any generations) lived in the United States
    • concerns about submitting this information over the internet
    • concerns about your response being stored on Google’s cloud
    • concerns about your response being used for future research projects

The survey is completely voluntary.

Page last updated July 20, 2019